The acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that Pakistan had an important role to play in the ongoing Afghan peace process. He made this statement, during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, to oppose any move to withdraw troops from the war-torn country, to which another top American general agreed.
The whole conversation ensued while hearing the country's defence budget for the fiscal year 2020 beginning October 1. Senator Lindsay Graham asked a question on the ongoing Afghan peace process.
"It's in our national security interest to have a counterterrorism platform. Do you agree that we'll never get a peaceful resolution until Pakistan denies the Taliban's safe haven?" Graham asked.
"I believe Pakistan plays an important role," Shanahan said in response.
"I do (agree), senator," said the Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford.
During this Congressional hearing, Shanahan agreed that a counterterrorism platform is still required in the war-torn country as ISIS is getting even more stronger than before. He also hailed President Trump's current South Asia strategy which offers the best chance for peace in Afghanistan.
"Our current policy remains the South Asia strategy. Our best chance for peace and this is probably the best in 40 years, is taking place right now. I would say our policy is to fight and talk. We're fighting the Taliban to pressure them into a reduction in violence," he said.
The United States is making progress on its South Asia policy, he added.
"Do you anticipate US forces coming home from Afghanistan anytime soon, or are we looking at an indefinite garrison type situation? How would you explain our current policy and the conditions for US withdrawal for the American people in a clear and simple way?" Senator Tom Udall asked.
"It's my judgment today, based on the threat from South Asia, that we need to continue to put pressure on those terrorist groups or they'll pose a threat to the United States," General Dunford said while insisting that the US policy should put pressure on the terrorist groups otherwise they'll pose a threat to the United States.
"The conditions for continuing to decrease our presence in the region as we have and increase the responsibility of, in this case, the Afghan forces to provide security for themselves, I think we can expect that to happen,
"While I'm not anything other than realistic about the current negotiations we have and the peace process, it is the first time in many, many years where we've had some opportunity now to pursue a peaceful resolution to the war in Afghanistan. And at the end of the day, I don't believe there is a military solution, and I think will need to maintain a counterterrorism presence as long as an insurgency continues in Afghanistan," Dunford said.
"Difficult to prove, but from the time I've spent Afghanistan -- I have been a commander there -- I am confident, if you want to think about this in terms of term insurance, once you stop paying the premium, you no longer have insurance. What we are doing in Afghanistan today, in my judgment, is a commensurate level of effort to threat," Dunford told the lawmakers.
Dunford also claimed that there are about 20 groups violent extremist groups in the region and a handful of those have clearly demonstrated that they are intended to attack the homeland and the American citizens. The pressure that US's counter-terrorism efforts have put on those groups over the last years have prevented another 9/11, he noted.